Second Grandmother slowly tilted her head so that her half blind eye seemed to stare down at the reptilian First Mechanic in front of her workbench. She well knew how effective an intimidation tactic a partially necrotic organ was. She had kept three generations of daughters in line with it. Granted it didn’t work on Undulates or the Gathering, but every species that had eyes respected her half dead one. First Mechanic stared up at her with a defiant squint hiding his amber eyes from her gaze for several moments before relaxing in submission and letting his scaled membranes open to reveal his pupils, wide in the dim light of her workshop. Satisfied that he was properly cowed she drew in a broad breath.
“Why?” she asked, remembering to deepen her tones to express sternness to the reptilian more used to communication with vocal chords, “do you want access to the humans’ personal interest files?”
“It doesn’t need to be all of the humans,” First Mechanic said, his tail twitching in a display of nervousness that highlighted his tongue flicking out to clean his lips. “Just the one I indicated-”
“Humans,” Second Grandmother interrupted him, quite enjoying the transgression sensation the act of impoliteness gave her, “are very chary of sharing non-essential information.”
“I am aware,” First Mechanic grumbled as his feet kneaded the ground under him.
“They insisted on strict rules on the sharing of information as their right of acceptance into the larger community,” she went on. “I will need a formal justification before I even consider giving you access to that information.”
First Mechanic hissed and sputtered in frustration and then swung his tail in a wide gesture that she believed indicated a direction he wished to draw her attention to. However she was unable to perceive the intended direction.
“That!” he burst out.
A long moment stretched between them in the dusky silence. First Mechanic was now still and focused on her, his amber eyes blinking steadily in the dry air.
“I will need more specific data,” she finally prompted him.
“Can’t you see them out there?” First Mechanic demanded.
“I cannot see anything outside of my workshop,” she reminded him, reaching up with her tongue to indicate her mostly dead eye.
First Mechanic hissed in a disturbed tone and bobbed his head in apology.
“The humans,” he began, “are out perusing insects.”
He waved his tail in the same gesture to indicate their location.
“You might be aware that the local grainivorous species are experiencing a mast production season,” he said.
Second Grandmother let her triangular head rotate in agreement.
“I fabricated some protective coverings for Second Grandfather’s plants,” she told him. “He was quite distressed when they devoured an entire season’s worth of growth and development.”
“Well the insects have entered a phase where their primary mode of travel is a very quick jumping motion,” First Mechanic said.
His body gave an odd spasm that Second Grandmother suspected to be an attempt to imitate the motion of the jumping insect.
“The humans,” First Mechanic licked his lips in confusion. “This morning I came outside to bask and found Ranger Benji crouched on my favorite basking rock.”
“Did you ask him to move?” Second Grandmother asked him in the gentle tone Second Grandfather had taught her to use to diffuse resource conflict in their little ones.
“Of course,” First Mechanic, “or rather I tried, but before I could even ask Ranger Benji sprang off of the rock and caught at something with his hands. It was one of the insects. It got away but Ranger Benji followed it. I was still muzzy from sleep cold.”
“Aren’t the sleeping accommodations heated?” Second Grandmother asked sharply. “I personally installed the circulation systems.”
“Well yes,” First Mechanic admitted, “but the circulation system has been glitching. I wanted to troubleshoot it myself before I brought it up to you.”
“You should have brought it up to me immediately,” she said with an irritated click.
“Please note that I was muzzy from sleep cold,” he pointed out. “Anyway I climbed up on the rock and watched the humans as I warmed. They were all running around the meadow catching the insects.”
“What did they do with them?” Second Grandmother asked.
“They would just let them go,” First Mechanic explained reaching up a fist of claws to rub at his eyes.
Second Grandmother had to fight back a wince and remind herself that the reptilians had literal armor on their outer membranes and hardly needed to avoid scratching.
“If they caught a particular larger or aesthetically pleasing one they would show it to the others and admire it together, but for the most part they simply let them go,” First Mechanic said with a huff.
“Ranger Benji seemed to be the instigator of the behavior,” First Mechanic went on after a long pause. “I began to suspect that he had arranged this to facilitate some research project, but I was unable to ask him before the morning shift began and the humans dispersed. Due to the sleep muzzy I wasn’t able to identify any specific humans other than Ranger Benji. So all I want,”
First Mechanic took a half beat of conversation to open his eyes wider and angle his head to maximize his neo-natal appearance.
“All I want is to know if Ranger Benji has a background in entomology,” First Mechanic said.
Second Grandmother couldn’t quite help the amused angle of her mandibles even if she was far too old for her neck frill to betray her amusement at the simple begging.
“I will see what I can get for you,” she finally agreed. “This is rather curious behavior and bears further inspection.”
Humans are Weird: We Took a Vote
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